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Clear to blurry

Freshman works to overcome vision crippling Stargardt's Disease

March 8, 2016

The trees in the summertime, the sunset towards the evening, splashes of rain on the windowsill, all are what people see in the world everyday. The smile on a friends face, or a colorful rainbow after a storm is beauty in itself. Until, suddenly, everything becomes blurry.

This is how freshman Rebecca Ostermiller found out she had the genetic disease of Stargardt’s. In August, her eyesight started to fade, and in a matter of two weeks, she started to see double.

“In the beginning, it was hard to do basic activities. Brushing my hair and doing makeup was hard because I had to look out the side to make sure it’s done right. But school wise, it’s been getting easier because of the IPad the school has issued me, and the support from my friends and family,” Rebecca said.

Stargardt’s is a genetic DNA mutation where the retina in the eye is affected. That person can’t see the center of their vision, but can look out their periphery more clearly.

“As a mom, it is very difficult to see your child struggling and you have no way to stop the progression of the disease. We pray a lot and lean on our faith,” Michelle Ostermiller, Rebecca’s mother, said.

Since then, Rebecca has grown stronger in knowing how to handle Stargardt’s. With her daily schedule changing because of the condition, she has grown accustomed to how to handle certain situations.

“I’m going through cane training, and learning little things that will help me in the future. For example, I put different colored rubber bands on my shampoo and conditioner so I can tell which is which,” Rebecca said.

Rebecca has supportive friends there to motivate and help her, along with her twin sister, freshman Erica Ostermiller, who is there to give her a hand when she needs it. While Erica also has Stargardt’s, it doesn’t affect her quite as much as Rebecca.

“I help her with her homework, along with math and taking notes,” Erica said.

With Rebecca participating with classes such as art and writing, she hopes the student body understands the hardships she has to face.

“I just hope that students are aware about the people around them. They may not know that I have it, and may joke around about it, it’s something I do have to go through and deal with,” Rebecca said.

Even so, Rebecca is hoping for a cure for her eyesight. Scientists are now researching the telescopic implants and injections to try to rejuvenate the macula.

“The doctors have said this research is coming along, but are about 10 years away from being able to implement it as a treatment,” Michelle said.

Still, whether her eyesight is blurry or clear, Ostermiller keeps her head up; feeling like everyday is a gift to her.

“I’m living day by day. I don’t worry about what’s going on tomorrow, only to focus on what needs to get done today,” Rebecca said.

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